New city law helps mom n’ pop shops to fight back

Some of the local businesses on White Plains Road between East 236th and 235th streets.
Photo courtesy of Michael Felter

It has been two years since legislation was passed by the NYC Council to help small businesses that have been victimized by unscrupulous landlords.

The bill, that went into effect on June 28, 2016, is written to protect locally-owned stores, but many of the small business owners that would benefit from it the most, are not aware it even exists.

So on Tuesday, May 22, Community Board 12 and the East 233rd Street & White Plains Road Merchant Association will host an information session explaining the legislation to the local merchants of the area.

“A lot of the small business owners on White Plains Road come from countries where the economic system isn’t trusted,” explained Manny Roldan, the chair of the community board’s Economic Development and Business Services committee.

“They open their businesses here thinking they’re on their own, not realizing there are groups advocating for their rights,” Roldan continued.

The meeting is expected to begin at 7 p.m. at 4101 White Plains Road.

The legislation was a hot topic on the City Council’s agenda when it was first introduced at the July 23, 2015 session.

The citywide law created a legal action plan for non-residential building tenants, such as local barbershops and bodegas, if they are harassed by their respective landlords.

Roldan explained many of the area’s businesses are not bound by leases, which allows landlords to do what they want knowing the businesses will not ask questions.

“The idea for the event was to be there for these small businesses by providing the legal help they need,” said Roldan.

The legislation’s introduction was considered a direct response to the pressure of rapid development happening around the city.

Many local businesses rent their properties, as opposed to owning them, were and still continue to be pushed out by landlords seeking to improve their bottom line by finding businesses with deeper pockets.

In some cases small businesses are pushed away when landlords dramatically raise their rent prices or force the businesses to vacate their leases if they are not able to pay the rent increase.

Some small business owners even reported their utilities had been shut off as a means of forcing them to vacate.

As it stands, nearly all the small businesses on White Plains Road are dealing with the same few management companies and landlords, according to Michael Felter.

Felter is the president of the East 233rd Street and White Plains Road Merchant Association.

“Local businesses offer that personal touch,” said Felter. “You don’t necessarily walk into Rite Aid and say ‘how are you’ to the workers.”

“When you have that connection, small business owners are more likely to give you deals if you can’t afford something,” Felter explained.

Evy Viruet from the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition will be the guest speaker at the event.

The association and community board have advertised the event to merchants in the area primarily by word of mouth and sharing the event info on social media.

However, they encourage all those interested in attending to contact Felter at (917) 312-9443.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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